Chemistry

Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science

This project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards.

Award Number: 
1721163
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/15/2017 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

This Integrating Chemistry and Earth science (ICE) project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards. The overarching goal of the project is to develop teacher capacity to teach and evaluate student abilities to use the practices of scientists and concepts from Earth science and chemistry to understand important phenomena in their immediate, familiar environments. The project has the potential to serve as a model for how to make cutting edge science directly accessible to all students. The project is a collaborative effort that engages scientists, science education researchers, curriculum developers, school curriculum and instruction leaders, and science teachers in the longer term challenge of infusing Earth science concepts and practices across the core high school science courses.

Current guidelines and standards for science education promote learning that engages students in three interrelated dimensions: disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting ideas. This project is guided by the hypothesis that when provided sustained opportunities to engage in three-dimensional learning experiences, in an integrated Earth science and chemistry context, students will improve in their ability to demonstrate the coordination of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts when solving problems and developing explanations related to scientific phenomena. This project will employ a design based research approach, and during the two development-enactment-analysis-and-redesign cycles, the project team will collect student assessment data, teacher interview data, observational data from lessons, teacher surveys, and reflective teacher logbooks. These collected data will provide information about how teachers implement the lessons, what students do during the lessons, and what students learn from them that will lead to better design and a better understanding of student learning. This information will be used to inform the modification of lessons from cycle to cycle, and to inform the professional development materials for teachers. The research agenda for the project is guided by the following questions: 1. What are the design features of ICE lessons that support teachers in enacting three-dimensional instruction within the context of their classroom? 2. What are the design features of embedded three-dimensional assessments that yield useful classroom data for teachers and researchers regarding their students' abilities to integrate core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts? 3. What is the nature of student learning related to disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts that results from students' engagement in ICE lesson sets? 4. What differences emerge in student engagement and learning outcomes for ICE lessons that incorporate local phenomena or data sets as compared to lessons that do not? 5. What contextual factors (i.e., school context, administrative support, time constraints, etc.) influence teachers' implementation of three-dimensional instruction embedded within ICE lessons?


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science (ICE)

Presenter(s): Alan Berkowitz, Vonceil Anderson, Bess Caplan, Kevin Garner, & Jonathon Grooms


Building Capacity to Retain Underrepresented Students in STEM Fields

This workshop provides minority serving institutions with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about effective ways to create, implement, and evaluate models of intervention that will advance knowledge about retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. It will advance knowledge in life science and the biosciences for K-12 and undergraduate students attending local schools or eligible minority-serving institutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1741748
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/01/2017 to Mon, 04/30/2018
Full Description: 

The NSF invests in a number of programs targeting underrepresented populations and institutions relative to its meeting its goals for broadening participation in STEM. This workshop provides minority serving institutions with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about effective ways to create, implement, and evaluate models of intervention that will advance knowledge about retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. It will advance knowledge in life science and the biosciences for K-12 and undergraduate students attending local schools or eligible minority-serving institutions. The workshop will focus on assisting minority serving institutions with use of research designs, and review of best practices for intervention shown to be effective in helping underrepresented student cope with chronic stresses that interfere with their retention in STEM fields and careers. The target audience for the workshop will be the participating institutions and their undergraduate students, in partnership with local K-12 schools.

In collaboration with Quality Education for Minority and MERAssociates, Rutgers University Newark will provide a unique setting to convene more than 100 participants to attend the workshop. The participants will include deans and/or department chairs; STEM faculty; educational researchers, and institutional representatives such as Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, Provosts, or other administrators. The participants will work in teams of 4-5 to address science research topics and activities related to curriculum development, teacher support, and student engagement. Outcomes from the workshops will provide insights about successful strategies, areas of future research, and awareness about the need for better intervention models that support underrepresented minority students in STEM.

Youth Participatory Science to Address Urban Heavy Metal Contamination

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise.

Award Number: 
1720856
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Thu, 04/30/2020
Full Description: 

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project is a collaboration of teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, science educators, chemists, and environmental scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University, and members of the Chicago Environmental Justice Network. The project is significant because it leverages existing partnerships and builds on pilot projects which will be informed by a corresponding cycle of research on teachers' learning and practice. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise. The project will examine the malleable factors affecting the ability of teachers to engage underrepresented students in innovative urban citizen science projects with a focus on the synergistic learning that occurs as teachers, students, scientists, and community members work together on addressing complex socio-scientific issues.

The goal is to provide a network of intellectual and analytical support to high school chemistry teachers engaged in customizing curricula in response to urban environmental concerns. The project will use an annual summer institute where collaborators will develop curriculum and procedures for collecting soil and water samples. In the project, the teachers and students will work with university scientists to analyze these samples for heavy metals, and students will share their results in community settings. The study design will be multiple case and be used to study the content knowledge learned and mobilized by participating teachers as they develop these authentic projects. The project includes explicit focus on the professional development of high school science teachers while it also aims to create rich learning opportunities for underrepresented high school students in STEM fields. The contextualized science concepts within students' everyday experiences or socio-scientific issues will likely have a positive impact on student motivation and learning outcomes, but the experiences of urban students are less likely to be reflected by the curriculum, and the practices of effective secondary science teachers in these contexts are under-examined.

The following article is in press and will be available soon:

Morales-Doyle, D., Childress-Price, T., & Chappell, M. (in press). Chemicals are contaminants too: Teaching appreciation and critique of science in the era of NGSS. Science Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21546

Sonified Interactive Simulations for Accessible Middle School STEM

For this project, researchers will iteratively develop simulations to include sonifications, non-speech sounds that represent visual information, aimed at enhancing accessibility for all learners, but particularly for those with visual impairments to produce sonified simulations, professional development resources, design guidelines and exemplars, and publications.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621363
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. Computer based simulations in science can provide valuable opportunities for these students to experience and manipulate natural phenomena related to critical STEM ideas. However, existing simulations remain largely inaccessible to students with visual impairments in particular. Recent advances in technology related to sonification use with simulations can make it possible for these students to have a more complete and authentic experience. Sonification is the use of non-speech sounds, such as musical tones, to represent visual information including data. Such sounds can be manipulated temporally and spatially and can also vary by amplitude and frequency to convey information that is more traditionally displayed visually. 

Researchers will iteratively develop five middle school physical science simulations to include sonifications aimed at enhancing accessibility for all learners, but particularly for those with visual impairments. Data collection activities will include focus groups and interviews with students and teachers focused on engagement. The end products of this project will include sonified simulations, professional development resources, design guidelines and exemplars, and publications.

InquirySpace 2: Broadening Access to Integrated Science Practices

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics. InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research and learn what it means to be a scientist.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621301
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses. The project addresses the urgent national priority to improve science education as envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by focusing less on learning facts and equations and instead providing students with the time, skills, and resources to experience the conduct of science and what it means to be a scientist. This project builds on prior work that created a sequence of physics activities that significantly improved students' abilities to undertake data-based experiments and led to productive independent investigations. The goal of the InquirySpace project is to improve this physics sequence, extend the approach to biology and chemistry, and adapt the materials to the needs of diverse students by integrating tailored formative feedback in real time. The result will be student and teacher materials that any school can use to allow students to experience the excitement and essence of scientific investigations as an integral part of science instruction. The project plans to create and iteratively revise learning materials and technologies, and will be tested in 48 diverse classroom settings. The educational impact of the project's approach will be compared with that of business-as-usual approaches used by teachers to investigate to what extent it empowers students to undertake self-directed experiments. To facilitate the widest possible use of the project, a complete set of materials, software, teacher professional development resources, and curriculum design documents will be available online at the project website, an online teacher professional development course, and teacher community sites. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research. These features will include (1) educational games to teach data analysis and interpretation skills needed in the approach, (2) reduced dependence on reading and writing through the use of screencast instructions and reports, (3) increased reliance on graphical analysis that can make equations unnecessary, and (4) extensive use of formative feedback generated from student logs. The project uses an overarching framework called Parameter Space Reasoning (PSR) to scaffold students through a type of experimentation applicable to a very large class of experiments. PSR involves an integrated set of science practices related to a question that can be answered with a series of data collection runs for different values of independent variables. Data can be collected from sensors attached to the computer, analysis of videos, scientific databases, or computational models. A variety of visual analytic tools will be provided to reveal patterns in the graphs. Research will be conducted in three phases: design and development of technology-enhanced learning materials through design-based research, estimation of educational impact using a quasi-experimental design, and feasibility testing across diverse classroom settings. The project will use two analytical algorithms to diagnose students' learning of data analysis and interpretation practices so that teachers and students can modify their actions based on formative feedback in real time. These algorithms use computationally optimized calculations to model the growth of student thinking and investigation patterns and provide actionable information to teachers and students almost instantly. Because formative feedback can improve instruction in any field, this is a major development that has wide potential.

Misconceptions Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resource for Teachers of High School Physical Sciences (MOSART HSPS)

This project builds upon the widely used K-12 Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART). The project is developing 500 new test items that are intended to assess disciplinary core ideas in chemistry and physics aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. The new measures will be used to measure the knowledge acquired in a year of study by 10,000 students and 200 teachers in chemistry and physics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621210
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

Researchers in the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University are developing and validating assessment instruments intended to measure chemistry and physical science concepts for students and teachers in grades 9 through 12. This project builds upon the widely used K-12 Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART) developed by this research team. The project is developing 500 new test items that are intended to assess disciplinary core ideas in chemistry and physics aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. The new measures will be used to measure the knowledge acquired in a year of study by 10,000 students and 200 teachers in chemistry and physics. The new assessment items and instruments will be made available to other researchers and practitioners through the project website and the on-line MOSART assessment system.

The assessment development process is based on prior research conducted to develop similar MOSART items and instruments, which includes design efforts of assessment specialists, content experts, and research scientists. Pilot items are tested with a national sample of approximately 20,000 high school students and their teachers. Data will be analyzed using item response theory to model student responses. Outcomes consist of item parameters, test and sub-test characteristics, and predictive linkages among items. Descriptive statistics are generated to establish the state of student knowledge, pre-and post-test performance by item and by standard, and teacher knowledge. Descriptive analyses are followed by hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to examine the relationships between teacher-level and program-level variables.

The MOSART instruments have been widely used and are based on a model of cognition with a strong research base in misconceptions in science education. These additional Grade 9-12 chemistry and physics instruments will address gaps in the current MOSART system of assessments. The new instruments focused on chemistry and physics disciplinary core ideas provide a much needed set of assessments for researchers and practitioners, particularly teacher professional development providers.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars Teacher Academy Resident System

This project will investigate the effectiveness of a teacher academy resident model to recruit, license, induct, employ, and retain middle school and secondary teachers for high-need schools in the South. It will prepare new, highly-qualified science and mathematics teachers from historically Black universities in high-needs urban and rural schools with the goal of increasing teacher retention and diversity rates.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621325
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/15/2016 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project at Jackson State University will investigate the effectiveness of a teacher academy resident model to recruit, license, induct, employ, and retain middle school and secondary science and mathematics teachers for high-need schools in the South. It will prepare new, highly-qualified science and mathematics teachers from historically Black universities in high-needs urban and rural schools. The project involves a partnership among three historically Black universities (Jackson, State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), and diverse urban and rural school districts in Jackson, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Pine Bluff Arkansas region that serve more than 175,000 students.

Participants will include 150 middle and secondary school teacher residents who will gain clinical mentored experience and develop familiarity with local schools. The 150 teacher residents supported by the program to National Board certification will obtain: state licensure/certification in science teaching, a master's degree, and initiation. The goal is to increase teacher retention and diversity rates. The research question guiding this focus is: Will training STEM graduates have a significant effect on the quality of K-12 instruction, teacher efficacy and satisfaction, STEM teacher retention, and students? Science and mathematics achievement? A quasi-experimental design will be used to evaluate project's effectiveness.

Supporting Chemistry Teachers to Assess and Foster Chemical Thinking

The fundamental purpose of this project is to develop, implement, and study a professional development (PD) model for improving chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices to foster teaching focused on chemical thinking.

Award Number: 
1621228
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This is a design and development study submitted to the teaching strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program; responsive to Program Solicitation NSF 15-592. The DRK-12 program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by PreK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The fundamental purpose of this project is to develop, implement, and study a professional development (PD) model for improving chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices to foster teaching focused on chemical thinking. The PD model seeks to refocus and enhance teachers' abilities to notice, interpret, and respond to students' ideas. Building on previous exploratory work through which a Chemical Thinking Framework was developed, the proposed effort will work with 8th-12th grade teachers in Boston Public Schools and the New England Region to assist them (a) to recognize tools that are useful in eliciting students' chemical thinking, and adapt or design formative assessments; (b) to make sense of students' chemical thinking based on data collected using formative assessments that elicit students' thinking; and (c) to strategize responsive actions that better foster learning chemistry. The research questions will be: (1) How does chemistry teachers' assessment reasoning change through engagement in PD that focuses on formative assessment as a transformative lever?; and (2) How does engagement in the proposed PD activities influence the ideas and practices that teachers emphasize in their classrooms?

In order to address the research questions, the project will develop a yearlong PD model with four cohorts of 8th-12th grade teachers, including one cohort with teachers from the New England region in a hybrid format (face-to-face and online); each having six teachers (N=24). The model development will be conducted in three phases. In Phase 1, the research team will develop a detailed plan for the PD program by designing and testing conceptualized activities. During Phase 2, the project will study the model with Cohorts 1 and 2 teachers. Phase 3 will focus on positioning the model for scaling up purposes with Cohorts 3 and 4. This phase will test the resources developed, and make comparisons to assess the scalability of the model. Data gathering strategies will include: (a) focus groups to collect data on teachers' assessment reasoning while collectively analyzing students' written work and videos of assessment practice; (b) assessment portfolios to gather individual data on teacher assessment reasoning and practice; (c) assessment snapshots to capture individual teachers' interactions with students; and (d) follow-up sessions to observe and videotape teachers during the year. Data interpretation strategies will include: (a) analysis of domain-neutral factors to characterize changes in how teachers frame and approach assessment of student understanding; and (b) analysis of domain-dependent factors to characterize changes in teachers' attention to the disciplinary ideas of students' work according to the Chemical Thinking Framework. The project will include an external evaluator to address both formative and summative components of this process. The outcome of the proposed scope of work will be a research-informed and field-tested PD model focused on the use of formative assessment to improve chemistry teaching and learning.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Formative Assessment with a Bang!

Presenter(s): Robert Huie, Timothy Abell, Scott Balicki, Greg Banks, Michael Clinchot, Marianne Dunne, Rebecca Lewis, & Hannah Sevian


CAREER: Making Science Visible: Using Visualization Technology to Support Linguistically Diverse Middle School Students' Learning in Physical and Life Sciences

Award Number: 
1552114
Funding Period: 
Wed, 06/01/2016 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

The growing diversity in public schools requires science educators to address the specific needs of English language learners (ELLs), students who speak a language other than English at home. Although ELLs are the fastest-growing demographic group in classrooms, many are historically underserved in mainstream science classrooms, particularly those from underrepresented minority groups. The significant increase of ELLs at public schools poses a challenge to science teachers in linguistically diverse classrooms as they try to support and engage all students in learning science. The proposed project will respond to this urgent need by investigating the potential benefits of interactive, dynamic visualization technologies, including simulations, animations, and visual models, in supporting science learning for all middle school students, including ELLs. This project will also identify design principles for developing such technology, develop additional ways to support student learning, and provide new guidelines for effective science teachers' professional development that can assist them to better serve students from diverse language backgrounds. The project has the potential to transform traditional science instruction for all students, including underserved ELLs, and to broaden their participation in science.

In collaboration with eighth grade science teachers from two low-income middle schools in North Carolina, the project will focus on three objectives: (1) develop, test, and refine four open-source, web-based inquiry units featuring dynamic visualizations on energy and matter concepts in physical and life sciences, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); (2) investigate how dynamic visualizations can engage eighth-grade ELLs and native-English-speaking students in science practices and improve their understanding of energy and matter concepts; and (3) investigate which scaffolding approaches can help maximize ELLs' learning with visualizations. Research questions include: (1) Which kinds of dynamic visualizations (simulations, animations, visual models) lead to the best learning outcomes for all students within the four instructional science units?; (2) Do ELLs benefit more from visualizations (or particular kinds of visualizations) than do native-English-speaking students?; and (3) What kinds of additional scaffolding activities (e.g., critiquing arguments vs. generating arguments) are needed by ELLs in order to achieve the greatest benefit? The project will use design-based research and mixed-methods approaches to accomplish its research objectives and address these questions. Furthermore, it will help science teachers develop effective strategies to support students' learning with visualizations. Products from this project, including four NGSS-aligned web-based inquiry units, the visualizations created for the project, professional development materials, and scaffolding approaches for teachers to use with ELLs, will be freely available through a project website and multiple professional development networks. The PI will collaborate with an advisory board of experts to develop the four instructional units, visualizations, and scaffolds, as well as with the participating teachers to refine these materials in an iterative fashion. Evaluation of the materials and workshops will be provided each year by the advisory board members, and their feedback will be used to improve design and implementation for the next year. The advisory board will also provide summative evaluation of student learning outcomes and will assess the success of the teachers' professional development workshops.

Ramping Up Accessibility in STEM: Inclusively Designed Simulations for Diverse Learners

This project brings together leaders in simulation design and accessibility to develop and study interactive science simulations for diverse middle school students including those with sensory, mobility, or learning disabilities. The resulting simulations and research findings will help to address the significant disparity that exists between the achievement in science by students with and without disabilities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503439
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2015 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This project will bring together leaders in simulation design and accessibility to develop and study interactive science simulations for diverse middle school students including those with sensory, mobility, or learning disabilities. The resulting simulations and research findings will help to address the significant disparity that exists between the achievement in science by students with and without disabilities. The Physics Education Technology (PhET) Interactive Simulations project (University of Colorado Boulder) will develop and research interactive science and math simulations used by teachers and students around the world. The Inclusive Design Research Centre (OCAD University, Toronto, Ontario) is an international leader in inclusively designed technology, with the goal of designing for the full range of human diversity including those with and without disabilities. Together, the project team will engage in an iterative design process to develop innovative solutions for making the highly interactive environment of an educational simulation simultaneously intuitive, accessible, and supportive of exploration and discovery practices in science. Development efforts will focus on three inclusive simulations and optimize the design and implementation of several inclusive simulation features, including keyboard navigation, auditory descriptions for screen readers, the use of non-speech sounds to provide feedback (sonification), and the ability to control the simulation with assistive technology (AT) devices. For each simulation, professional development materials for teachers, including classroom activities and user guides, will be developed to support teachers in effectively using the inclusively designed simulations in their classrooms. 

Through new research, this project will seek to understand: 1) how inclusive simulations can support students with disabilities to engage in science practices, 2) how students with and without disabilities utilize inclusive simulations for learning STEM content, and 3) how students can engage in collaborative learning between students with and without disabilities - with an inclusive simulation. Researchers will use individual interviews with diverse students to closely examine these questions. The resulting resources, models, and tools will provide exemplars and important building blocks for an inclusively designed interactive curriculum, educational games, and assessment tools. Resulting simulations, research findings, design guidelines, and exemplars will be disseminated through the project team and advisor partner networks, education resource websites, and educator professional organizations.

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